Parenting Issues in Divorce: A Guardian Ad Litem or a Parent Coordinator May Help
In a divorce proceeding, many types of experts can be utilized by the parties. These include financial experts, such as business valuators and forensic accountants, but may also include individuals retained by the parties and/or appointed by the court to assist with issues related to the minor children and shared parenting. These roles are often filled through the appointment of a guardian ad litem and a parent coordinator.
A guardian ad litem is someone appointed by the Court, frequently by agreement of the parties, to act as “next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator.” Once appointed, a guardian ad litem (often referred to as “GAL”) determines what is in the best interests of the minor child(ren). In so doing, the guardian ad litem is permitted to investigate allegations or issues affecting the child and, thereafter, submit his or her recommendations to the court. Accordingly, the guardian ad litem’s role in a divorce or other family law matter is to represent the best interests of the minor child, and to help the court, and the parties, reach decisions and resolutions that support and advance the child’s best interests.
On the other hand, a parent coordinator is a qualified individual retained by the parties to assist them in creating or implementing a Parenting Plan. Termed a “child-focused alternative dispute resolution process” by the Florida Statutes, parent coordination facilitates the resolution of disputes between parents, which often arise as a result of their inability to engage in shared parenting. Specifically, parent coordinators work through issues with parents, make recommendations, and, with the prior approval of the parents and the court, make limited decisions within the scope of the court’s order.
The Florida Statutes set forth the qualification requirements for both guardians ad litem and parent coordinators, and further speak to other issues related to their appointment, such as confidentiality. Whether such an expert should be appointed is a case-by-case decision, highly dependent upon the issues involved in a particular matter. Nonetheless, an attorney can help with making the determination as to whether such an expert is necessary or would otherwise be beneficial to the parties and their children, and can assist with recommending experts. When children are involved, keep in mind there are experts out there that can help.